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Everything You Need To Know About: Roni Size’s new live show

The last three years have seen Roni Size remind us of the raw drive and ambition that originally propelled him, his crew and his city to pioneer game-status over 20 years ago. We’ve touched base with him every year lately… In 2014 he returned with his first new material since 2008. In 2015 he had Reprazent back on the road. In 2016 he and Krust re-launched Full Cycle

This year he’s thrown himself in at a brand new deep-end. Marking the milestone 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking Mercury Music Award-winning album New Forms, he’s developed an a/v concept that will provide a whole new perspective on his and Reprazent’s seminal album. This is the first time he’s performed the album solo (using original stems and additional instrumentation on keyboards, sampler and drum machines) and it incorporates 3D mapping technology and a lightbox cage to create the visual experience…

A new form of New Forms: speaking to Roni we learnt that the concept was actually inspired by Deadmau5 and how it’s one of his most ambitious projects to date. Rolling deep with the full Reprazent squad to play one of drum & bass’s most historic, genre-defining albums may pose logistical challenges but stepping up to the stage to perform it on your own, in a massive cage where 3D images of yourself are being projected onto you, is a whole other world of performance adrenaline.

Launched last month at London’s Oval Space and hitting a select run of festivals this summer, Roni calls it his parachute jump project. We call it dope. Here’s the 411…

Every year since your return we talk about another big project…

Since I’ve given this my full attention again music has become my life once more. I took some time off to spend with my family and take a break from nonstop music and since I’ve come back into the thick of it you realise there are so many plates to spin… And keeping them all going at the same time is so difficult! I’ve remembered you can’t please all of the people all of the time… I do an album as Roni Size and people want Reprazent. I do a Reprazent project and people want Full Cycle. There’s so much I want to do, too, and hopefully by next year all the plates will be spinning at the same time. But for now the 20 year anniversary is the main plate I’m spinning!

20 years!

I know, time flies! And this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate the record this milestone and go out and do something differently. It’s not a Reprazent project because all the people involved in the band are busy doing their thing and we’ve done that. This is a chance to do something new and create a new visual experience around the record. It’s such a daunting task to do something fresh but I love it!

What inspired the concept?

I want to bring something different to the table. We’ve done so much as a live act and touring as an eight piece band so this is the flip to that in some ways. I’ll confess, I saw Deadmau5 at the forum  / roundhouse and I saw something very different. I didn’t think drum & bass had that equivalent. This isn’t about the MCs or vocalists or anything, it’s about the whole experience and the visual contribution. This hasn’t really been explored in drum & bass where the 3D mapping, visuals and music works together. It’s my parachute jump and I’m hoping the parachute is going to open!

Tell us about the tech…

I don’t want to give away too many trade secrets! But I do have a couple of keyboards up there, a few drum machines, a sampler and I’m running the original programs of my stems and playing all the basslines live and adding kicks and snares which I can manipulate. That’s running alongside the visuals which are triggered by timecodes or what I hit on the keyboard. It all has to be set up before – that’s all the hard work. What I do is enhancement – it’s an enhanced performance

With room for improvisation?

Absolutely! I think it will be around the 10th show where I’m solid and confident enough to freestyle wildly. It took Reprazent years to get so tight and confident we could improvise but yeah, that’s definitely where I’m heading. That’s where I’m always heading… This year I won an award at the Music Producer’s Guild – an award for innovation, it inspired me to do more ambitious things and be that guy who takes risks and does something different. That’s my goal.

 

 

You said in the last interview ‘it’s not about being the first to be there, it’s about having a challenge and stepping up to it’ funnily enough…

I don’t know why I do it to myself! But I feel like I have to do it, to fulfil myself and make my mark in the game. There are so many talented people around right now doing some mindblowing things. I love what Noisia are doing right now with their Outer Edges show, for example. So this is me stepping up to that mark as an individual… And hopefully taking it around the world. Touring Reprazent was always a major challenge because there were so many of us. Logistically this new concept will be a lot easier to tour. And that’s another thing that excites me about this.

When you debuted this at Oval Space was it like playing your first show in a way? Totally new, scary, adrenalin-rushing etc…

Yes definitely. It’s a completely new experience for me. By the time I did the show it was more of a release of suspense because of the hard work we put into developing the show. Finding the right guys who could help me visualise the album and the experience graphically and working with them to develop this was a long and challenging process but we’ve done it, we’ve tested it live and now we’re good to go. And that’s such a good feeling!

Tell us about the visuals

I went out and really thought about graphics, colours and themes I liked and truly represented the music and enhance it. It’s about making the sounds and visuals move together. Projecting our history onto this – and everything we do – has been a big mission for us.

Did you consider political message? There are political parallels between the time you started making music and now…

No. Because there are some acts who do that so well. I saw Massive Attack last year and they do that in such a powerful way that it made me make a decision about what I wanted to do with the New Forms concept. It’s not where I’m at; my message is in the music and my mindset. It is political in that way but it’s a lot more subtle – it’s not something we need to portray visually.

If it wasn’t the 20th anniversary of New Forms what other plates would you be spinning?

We’d be touring Reprazent and finishing the next album! I’ve put that on hold and gone in deep with this to celebrate 20 years of New Forms. It was such an important album and moment in time. I had to make the decision. You can’t argue with time and now is most definitely the time do

What’s your relationship with New Forms? A lot of people who’ve made seminal records talk of exhaustion with a record and people expecting them to repeat that same success or make the same record again…

It’s changed over the years, we’ve been through a lot together! Right now I’d say we’re like an old married couple. We stick together through thick and thin and always find ways to renew that bond and experience together. And what we’ve done right here is one of the most exciting things we’ve done since the album was written over 20 years ago. Seeing is believing…

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